Rutgers teachers' unions hit with $150 million lawsuit over 'illegal' strike

The lawsuit aims to get approximately $150 million for the almost 70,000 students affected.

‘Jeremy’s experience of lost learning, academic anxiety, and emotional distress is typical of the student class according to academic research on faculty strikes,’ the lawsuit claims.

A student is suing several unions at Rutgers University over a week-long strike that took place last April. The student alleges that the strike significantly impacted the quality of his education at Rutgers and that, as such, he is owed for both financial and emotional damage incurred. 

The law firms Scirocco Law, P.C. and Hughes & Suhr LLC filed the lawsuit on March 15 on behalf of Jeremy Li, a junior finance student and Campus Reform correspondent. The lawsuit aims to get roughly $150 million for 67,000 Rutgers students who lost a week of their courses due to what Hughes & Suhr said was the “illegal” teachers’ strike, according to a press release from the law firm shared with Campus Reform

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“Imagine being a student anxiously waking up every day to check if you had class or worrying that you would drive to campus as a commuter just to see another day canceled. Or imagine you were waiting for a grade from an exam or needed to speak with your professor to ensure you were doing all you needed to get credit for the class or even graduate as the semester was winding down. These students deserve justice, accountability, and compensation for the financial and emotional damage inflicted by these illegal strikes,” said a statement from attorney Patrick Hughes in the press release. 

Defendants named in the lawsuit include the Rutgers Council of AAUP-AFT Chapters, the Rutgers Adjunct Faculty Union, and the New Jersey AFL-CIO, among others.

The lawsuit cites several legal precedents to show that “[s]trikes by public employees in New Jersey are illegal,” claims that “[t]he Rutgers faculty unions were aware that public employee strikes are illegal in New Jersey, but in Spring 2023 they chose to strike anyway,” and alleged that “causing students to miss out on the education they had paid for. . . .  was the key for them to gain the leverage they wanted at the bargaining table.” 

The unions “chose to strike in spite of the damage they knew it would do to students’ educations,” the suit continues. 

The complaint also states that “Jeremy’s experience of lost learning, academic anxiety, and emotional distress is typical of the student class according to academic research on faculty strikes.”

Patrick Hughes and David Suhr of Hughes & Suhr LLC have “recently filed similar lawsuits against the Chicago Teachers Union, Massachusetts-based Newton Teachers Association, and Kentucky 120 United-AFT for the financial and emotional damage caused by illegal teacher strikes,” according to the press release from the group. 

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The lawyers hope that the case will set the “precedent that illegal strikes will not be tolerated at the expense of students’ education and broader future,” the press release states. 

“So far, we have had a cooperative discussion with opposing counsel on initial procedural matters,” Hughes t Campus Reform.

Campus Reform has contacted Rutgers University and the relevant unions for comment. This article will be updated accordingly.

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